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LEGION

A Legion of A-Listers
Scott Stewart and David Lancaster agreed from the beginning that in order for Legion to fulfill its potential as a character-driven action-thriller with supernatural themes, it would require an outstanding, highly committed cast. "The most important decisions a director makes are in casting a film,” says Stewart. "If you cast it right, so much is going your way from the start. To that end, Rick Montgomery, our casting director, was absolutely fearless. He understood that we were trying to aim high and defy expectations with the casting of the movie.”

The filmmakers succeeded in bringing together a first-rate cast that includes award-winning actors from both sides of the Atlantic. "We have the dream-come-true cast,” says Stewart. "It was so important to get these actors. We spend the whole movie locked in a diner with them, so the audience has to care about them. There are no disposable stock characters; everybody is there for a specific reason.” 

The catalyst for the action of the film is Michael, a larger-than-life figure who seems to appear out of nowhere. "Michael has such conviction that the other characters follow him without question,” says Stewart. "I didn't want him to be an enigma. He is the Archangel Michael, but you can't play that abstraction.” Paul Bettany, perhaps best known for his powerful performance as Silas in The Da Vinci Code, is a highly respected British actor who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Convincing him to play Michael seemed an audacious goal for the filmmakers. "Paul has the authority we needed, but given his pedigree, we weren't sure he would be interested,” says Stewart. 

Stewart had planned his presentation meticulously in an all-out effort to capture Bettany's imagination. The actor was as intrigued by Stewart's vision as he was by the film's premise. "Scott pitched his movie better than anybody has ever pitched a movie to me before,” the actor says. "He had all kinds of visual aids. He's a very impressive human being. There were rumors going around the set he went through Harvard and M.I.T. and Cambridge and Oxford by the time he was nineteen.” 

The unusual thematic elements were icing on the cake for the actor. "It's a really slick, fast-paced movie that is in no way stupid,” he says. "Traditionally Michael is the defender of mankind. He is known as the first in all heaven to bow down before mankind and he still has faith in humanity despite all the war and horror he sees. So he's having a massive crisis of allegiance.” 

Bettany's unique qualities as an actor made him an ideal choice to play the conflicted archangel, says the director. "Paul has an incredible stillness that only the greatest actors possess. His work is almost surgical in its exactness and specificity. That helped make Michael a commanding, mysterious figure you immediately trust, even if you don't fully understand why. He turned out to be the most tremendous partner a filmmaker could have, because he cared a lot about the film and about his character—but he also wanted to shoot a machine gun and have a good time.” 

Having Bettany on board sent a message to the film community about the project. "It said that we were up to something very different,” says Stewart. "His presence made it easy to attract other high-caliber actors.” 

Dennis Quaid, who plays Bob Hansen, the diner's owner was one of the first to join Bettany. Quaid has been a popular leading man for more than 30 years, winning praise for performances in projects ranging from the 1979 classic Breaking Away to the recent summer blockbuster G.I Joe: Rise of the Cobra. But Stewart believes Quaid's reputation as a movie star sometimes obscures his acting ability. "Because he's been such a big star for so long, I think some people take his talent for granted,” says the director. "That's a mistake. He's incredibly entertaining to watch. And in Legi

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